Lyme to West Bay

Over the last month I set about writing a daily World Cup journal. On Sunday (world cup final day) I drove south to Dorset to spend a week walking and not blogging. After one day I find myself writing this blog entry and contemplating a week that may hold no further walking due to weather forcasts that suggest I should build an ark. So much for intentions.

I chose Dorset because I wanted to walk by the sea in an area I didn’t know. The wonderful South West coastal path extends out of Cornwall and through Devon into Dorset. Yesterday I arrived in Lyme Regis, donned my suspiciously clean walking boots and headed east.

This region is renown for coastal erosion and so it was no great surprise to discover a fairly major diversion inland for the first leg of my walk from Lyme over a links golf course into Charmouth.

Time for tee
Time for tee

It always happens when I walk past golf courses. I’m hopelessly attracted to them. It’s the perfect trimmed grass on the greens and the tee-off areas. It’s the uniform fairways. It’s the pristine paths. It’s the hand painted yardage boards. It’s also the fact that I’m sweating in the sun after a major hill climb with much more severe to come when I could be hitting a ball around with gay abandon. Truth is, I haven’t swung a club in anger for over ten years and last time I did, well, it made me angry.

Another lost ball
Another lost ball

Onward past the hackers, through the car park full of BMW cabriolets and into charming Charmouth. There’s a market today and I’m in a pottering mood so in I potter. It’s beguilingly familiar with clothes stalls, Asian businessmen selling everything from chisels to batteries plus the ubiquitous meat man selling pork by the pound to people who didn’t know they wanted it but were drawn in by his sales patter. You could be anywhere if it wasn’t for the west country accent.

I have resolved to be healthy this week as I am patently unfit and overfed by my normal standards. The gorgeous lemon drizzle cake that foist itself upon me is dealt with rapidly as if to minimise the window of guilt and my stride up a gruelling steep ancient byway is more urgent than it might otherwise have been.

The view from the top reveals ahead the highest point on the South Coast – Golden Cap. You can see where the name came from…

I have an admission to make and hopefully my hardened walker parents aren’t reading this or I will be in for some stick. My preparation for this walk has not involved the acquisition of a map. Look – it’s a coastal walk. If I get wet I’ve gone too far south. The only real issue here is that I don’t know exactly how far I’m walking or what elevations I should expect to encounter.

Golden Cap ahoy
Golden Cap ahoy

Fortunately the coastal path is well signposted as expected, even when land slippage has resulted in detours inland. Like all the best summits Golden Cap cons you into thinking it is closer and lower than you think. It’s no big deal in the scheme of things, certainly nothing compared to last years Lake District jaunts, but for my first walk in six months on a hot day the climb takes a bit out of me.

Purple Reign
Purple Reign

Luckily there are myriad reasons to break the ascent. Wild flowers carpet the hillside and the coastal views demand my attention in either direction.

Eastward Ho
Eastward Ho

The superior altitude of Golden Cap provides a perspective on the landscape not immediately apparent from lower down. It’s not just the bays either – the farmland to the north is compelling in its own way. The rolling hills have been worked for time immemorial although any sense of permanence is an illusion – coastal erosion means these fields are living on borrowed time.

I had better speed up then. The descent is steep but clean and smooth. There is no scree, no boulders, just soft smooth turf that makes walking a pleasure. There is a welcome cooling breeze but the landscape tells me this tranquility is not the norm…

Windswept tree
Windswept tree

From the highest point down to sea level at imaginatively named Seatown. There isn’t much here other than a shingle beach and a fine old pub but conveniently those are the only two things I crave for right now. A pint of something local and delicious allows time for me to air my abused feet and read another chapter of the travel writers booked I picked up from my own pub last week for 20p. I’m not a prolific reader but I like to read about places I am travelling to, or in this case places other people are travelling to. I may appear to be sat outside a Dorset pub but I am in fact sitting on an Italian commuter train engrossed in social contrivances as witnessed by the author.

Every hiker knows that feeling after the lunchtime pub stop when the stiff limbs are called upon to scale the next hill. The next peak is a shadow of Golden Cap but doesn’t feel it. The view back east provides some reward at least.

View East
View East

My destination is West Bay and now it is visible ahead, prodding out beyond the cliffs, actual distance unknown.

View to West Bay
View to West Bay

As the path descends gently into West Bay I come across a bench (thankfully nobody died to get this one erected) and I consume the nectarine I purchased back in Lyme. I often ponder the improbable journeys undertaken by fruit. Somebody grows a plant in southern Europe or South America, the goods are harvested, shipped to Northern Europe, distributed regionally by lorry and bought by locals (or visitors like me). It seems reasonable to expect the purchaser to take said item of fruit home and fulfil its anticipated destiny, but further fruit miles may be incurred as in today’s coastal relocation. I have been known to ferry fruit to and from work for several days before consigning it to my compost bin in a state of decay. If reports are to be believed the British public compound their under-consumption of fruit by chucking a quarter of it away uneaten. All in all it amounts to a contrived voyage that may or may not conclude digestively.

I blame my dalliance with fruit miles on the boredom one has to deal with when awaiting a bus in a place that has less attraction than the time available demands. West Bay centres around a modest marina of sorts. There’s a couple of cafes, a pub and a few fish and chip stalls for the tourists but that’s about it. My bus back to Lyme Regis runs every two hours and with 75 minutes to wait I read my travel book in a bus shelter with a cup of coffee as the rain arrives. I’m tired, achy and just want to get back.